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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2016 Mar 15;120(6):567-79. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00876.2015. Epub 2016 Jan 14.

Interaction between environmental temperature and hypoxia on central and peripheral fatigue during high-intensity dynamic knee extension.

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Environmental Ergonomics Research Centre, Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom.
Environmental Ergonomics Research Centre, Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom


This study investigated causative factors behind the expression of different interaction types during exposure to multistressor environments. Neuromuscular fatigue rates and time to exhaustion (TTE) were investigated in active men (n = 9) exposed to three climates [5 °C, 50% relative humidity (rh); 23 °C, 50% rh; and 42 °C, 70% rh] at two inspired oxygen fractions (0.209 and 0.125 FiO2; equivalent attitude = 4,100 m). After a 40-min rest in the three climatic conditions, participants performed constant-workload (high intensity) knee extension exercise until exhaustion, with brief assessments of neuromuscular function every 110 s. Independent exposure to cold, heat, and hypoxia significantly (P < 0.01) reduced TTE from thermoneutral normoxia (reductions of 190, 405, and 505 s from 915 s, respectively). The TTE decrease was consistent with a faster rate of peripheral fatigue development (P < 0.01) compared with thermoneutral normoxia (increase of 1.6, 3.1, and 4.9%/min from 4.1%/min, respectively). Combined exposure to hypoxic-cold resulted in an even greater TTE reduction (-589 s), likely due to an increase in the rate of peripheral fatigue development (increased by 7.6%/min), but this was without significant interaction between stressors (P > 0.198). In contrast, combined exposure to hypoxic heat reduced TTE by 609 s, showing a significant antagonistic interaction (P = 0.003) similarly supported by an increased rate of peripheral fatigue development (which increased by 8.3%/min). A small decline (<0.4%/min) in voluntary muscle activation was observed only in thermoneutral normoxia. In conclusion, interaction type is influenced by the impact magnitude of the effect of the individual stressors' effect on exercise capacity, whereby the greater the effect of stressors, the greater the probability that one stressor will be abolished by the other. This indicates that humans respond to severe and simultaneous physiological strains on the basis of a worst-strain-takes-precedence principle.


central motor drive; combined stressors; high altitude; neuromuscular fatigue; thermal stress

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